Reliance

1 Timothy 6: 17          GW

Tell those who have the riches of this world not to be arrogant and not to place their confidence in anything as uncertain as riches. Instead, they should place their confidence in God who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

This is one of the greatest challenges of wealth, trusting in it rather than trusting in God. This is the story of the rich, young ruler. Jesus invited him to join the team but instructed that first he should go sell what he had and give to the poor. That is where the young ruler stumbled.

Has God every asked you to give something away? Did you stumble? If so, why do think it was hard for you. I find some of become very connected to our “stuff.” Others of us find our security in those items. Sometimes we hang on to things because we do not trust that we will have the resources for a later need. That is a sure indication that we are relying on our ability to meet our needs. Trusting in riches can be a problem for people who have wealth, but it can also hamper those without much money. The same reliance issue affects people in each group.

There is also a group who think they are safe and secure because they have money. They don’t realize that the only true security any of us have is in Yahweh. Everything else is transitory. These are the folks who can become arrogant in their wealth. They feel untouchable because they think money can insulate them from problems. It certainly can help fix some problems, but it often brings on others.

If our reliance in on the money we have or even in the money we hope to have, eventually we will be disappointed. As Christians, we need to learn to lean on God 100% rather than relying on our ability to generate an income or to meet our own needs. We should learn to sow generously expecting God to increase our harvest. We can learn to listen to his guidance on money management and disbursement. It is a challenge but one each of us should ponder. How much do you rely on God versus placing your confidence in riches? Think about that question and decide if you need a shift in your focus.

Know Love

1 John 4:16

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

So, here is my question, have we come to know and do we believe the love God has for us? When I hear some of the things that come out of Christians’ mouths, I think we have not come to know the love God has for us. Have you ever heard a Christian say that God gave them, or a loved one, cancer in order to make them stronger? I have and it makes my head feel like it is going to explode. Remember this verse, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7: 11)? Would you give your child cancer? Of course not! There are much better ways to teach and strengthen than cancer. Cancer is a destroyer! Would you agree? Then consider this verse, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” (John 10: 10). Only the thief comes to destroy; not Jesus, not the Spirit and certainly not our Father. Jesus said he came to give life more abundantly. Intuitively I think we know these two truths but somehow the wires in our brains get crossed and we begin to think, or mimic, some crazy thoughts.

Today’s verse should be one of great comfort. It is the promise of love and the constant companionship of God. Beyond that, is a statement of faith; faith that God cares for us and will always be our advocate. We have only to come to believe in the love. Love acts in a predictable way and we should have confidence in that love. Love is saving grace and it defines every action and word of our Father. Come to know and believe in that love in a way that leaves no room for doubt. Call upon God knowing that He will always answer you.

Jealous Much?

Psalm 73: 1 – 3

No one can deny it—God is really good to Israel and to all those with pure hearts. But I nearly missed seeing it for myself. Here’s my story: I narrowly missed losing it all. I was stumbling over what I saw with the wicked. For when I saw the boasters with such wealth and prosperity, I became jealous over their smug security.

I remember well tripping over my sense of injustice at the financial success of the unrighteous. Was I envious? Yes, and outraged. It seemed wrong to me that people who were not blessing God, were not kind and were not gracious to others should reap financial blessing while the Godly suffered lack. Truth be told, sometimes I am still bothered but I remember this, God is not mocked. As you sow, so shall you reap (Galatians 6: 7) and I have seen this to be true.

God is good to us, as the scripture says, and He is a rewarder of faith and of all who seek him. And the truth about seed is that it will produce a harvest. It always does. So, those who sow good seed reap a harvest of good. However, the harvest is not always financial. Usually you reap in kind. Tomato seeds produce tomatoes, not cucumbers so if you want cucumbers, sow cucumber seeds. Those who reap financially may be reaping other harvests they don’t desire but they know and understand how to sow for financial gain. Others reap great relationships, peace, etc. but don’t enjoy the same financial success. That does not mean they are not successful. Their success is just in a different area. Those who are smug and arrogant about their financial fortunes often fail tragically in other areas.

We certainly should not envy them because we don’t know what they have done to build their financial well-being. They may have done work or spent hours that other people are unwilling to do. Instead of jealousy, we should seek the Father asking Him to teach us. Whatever area of our lives is missing being jealous of someone else is not going to improve it. Those people may or may not have their lives together in other areas so we may not truly want their lives. The God of the harvest has taught that we can have what we ask for and we know if others are being successful, then we can too. So, really, we should be glad when someone shows us what is possible. Then we can seek God and ask Him to show us the way.

Rest in Grace

Matthew 8: 5 – 7

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

Here is the latter revelation, which I mentioned in yesterday’s Word of the Day. Epiphany number two is that there is rest in grace. In fact, I would say, that the ultimate expression of God’s grace is rest. How, you might ask, do we get rest from the word grace? Well, let’s see.

I won’t bore you by going over every word in the dictionaries. Instead, let’s think of it this way. Grace is a gift bestowed upon us by the Lord. One of its keep components is that it is unearned. Interestingly, though, another aspect of the words we translate into “grace” is thankful. Is a picture beginning to form? We also talk about God giving us the grace to accomplish a task. This usage is very much like empowerment. His grace empowers us to do that which God has called us to do. Therefore, it is not in our might, or even in our skill or intelligence that we perform. It is by God’s grace that we can do anything for apart from Him, even Jesus said he could do nothing.

So, we “enter” into His grace being thankful that though we did not have to earn it, He has bestowed His favor upon us so that we will be empowered, through His grace, to do all that needs doing. We do not act in our might but rather in His. We can relax and breathe because He is the power. He is the ability, we but the hands of His labor.

What then is our labor? Well, that is to enter into this rest. Do you remember the verse from Wednesday – Ephesians 2: 8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” The way we obtain salvation is the same way we receive His grace. It is by faith. We are to enter into His gates and how ridiculous would it be for us to enter into His abode and then run around all stressed out trying and striving to accomplish anything? That is ludicrous, really. Our task is to relax and listen to the Father. Then we apply faith to what He tells us and, voila, the work is done. I am not saying to lie on the couch and eat bon bons. I am saying that the work is getting to inner part of your and building a fortress of faith and trust. Our labor is in renewing our minds and intertwining ourselves with the Father so that when He speaks, we can respond in faith rather than in works or self-righteousness.

Lastly, the reason I chose today’s verse is because I have been amused and even astounded by how Jesus would change the course of his day at the drop of a word. If ever there was a person who could have used the “busy” excuse for not resting or not redirecting his steps, it was Jesus. However, as I have said before, “busy” is a four letter word. Jesus was never so busy that he could not do as the father directed. He didn’t get stressed out. He didn’t overcompensate, nor did he complain. He stayed in the Father’s perfect peace. I am sure Jesus had a different plan when he arrived at Capernaum but when need presented itself, Jesus responded. He changed his plan and was ready to head to this person’s house. Grace intervened, though, that is the supernatural empowerment to do the Father’s bidding. The centurion recognized Jesus’ authority and told him that he was not worthy for Jesus to come to his house but rather, just speak the word and it would be done. And Jesus spoke. The centurion’s need was met and Jesus barely broke stride. He stayed in peace and God provided everything. Amazing! Jesus didn’t have to work hard, he worked in the Spirit.

One other comment about Jesus and busyness contrasted to resting in God. Jesus often went away to the mountains or the wilderness to meditate and pray. He took his disciples out of the work they were doing and called them into rest. There might be something to all this. Just sayin’.

Grace Extended

Proverb 3: 34

Though He scoffs at the scoffers, yet He gives grace to the afflicted.

While the simplest, and perhaps most functional, description of the word grace is “unmerited favor” it is far from a full understanding. If you run a search on the word grace and read all of the verses in which it appears, you will see that for yourself.

That which began my look into the word grace was actually an observation about judgment. I wrote in my journal, “there can be no grace where there is judgment.” That was my epiphany at that moment. It began me thinking about this “grace” we hear about. Two outstanding revelations have shown themselves as I have studied this word. The latter will be the subject of tomorrow’s Word of the Day. Today, the meaning of the word “grace” which has me mesmerized is, “acceptance.”

Lying on my writing desk right now is my Strong’s, my Bible, a Vine’s and Nelson’s Bible Dictionary. They are threatening to collapse my desk under their combined weight. The weightiest of all, though, is their exhaustive description of grace. I will refer back to them in a moment but there is another book here in front of me. It is a by Dr. Jim Richards and Chaim Bentorah and features ten words explained in the original languages. In the chapter on the word grace, Bentorah wrote, “There is one other definition of Chen and even Charis other than grace, it is acceptance.” Chen is the Hebrew word for grace and Charis, the Greek. Bentorah identifies one of the other synonyms in English as “acceptance.” That is a stunning, but then again, intuitive disclosure.

As I searched Chen and Charis in this mountain of resource material beside me, I saw that the scholars agree with that assessment. God’s grace includes acceptance. That rings true intuitively because how meaningful is “unmerited (unearned) favor” without acceptance. God called out to each of us inviting us into His family. He accepted us, as we were, and poured the righteousness of Jesus’ blood over us so that we could enter into His peace and dwell in His tent.

This chain of thought leads right back to judgment. It is logically impossible for either us or God to extend grace and acceptance while criticizing and condemning. We must choose. Either God is grace and mercy, or He is judgment and condemnation. Which is it? As applied to me, I choose to accept God’s grace. That isn’t a difficult intellectual question, theologically. The challenge is when I, or we, extend our theology towards others. Then we must either retract our judgmental approach towards others or evaluate if we really believe in a God of grace. Here is where the modern church often comes off the rails. We are challenged to keep the symmetry between ourselves and those “heathen” out there. We forget, sometimes, that we were once they. This is exactly why you hear theology of a God of love coming out of one side of the church’s mouth and a God of wrath coming from the other. We become very schizophrenic in our theology.

Let me make this simple. Our God is not only a God of love, He actually is love. He can do not thing which is inconsistent with love. That is why He is grace, mercy, kindness, forgiveness and acceptance. That is why He put His son on a cross for us. He knew our shortfalls. He knew our ridiculousness. None the less, love compelled Him to take all that judgment you hear about and heap it onto Jesus’ back. Only then could He express Himself towards us. He had to remove the judgment problem so that He could show His acceptance and shower us with favor.

In order, then, to heal the church from its emotional schism, we must extend the same acceptance to others, all others. This is the way, because Jesus is the grace of God. “We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are,” (Acts 15: 11). By grace we have been led to the throne of God. By grace we help others find their way too. Therefore, we will refrain from judgment and extend our hands in acceptance. In this way, we will show, and share, the grace of God.

Grace 2

Ephesians 2: 8

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Grace, the mere sound of the word is comforting. A very commonly accepted shorthand definition for grace is: unmerited favor. We have been saved by the gift of God through nothing we have done. Our only part is faith in the blood of Jesus. It was grace, the unmerited, unearned gift of God which saved our souls from hell. That is what God’s grace towards us does.

Grace, however, isn’t limited to this one application nor is dispensed solely by God. “Dispenser of grace, pour out your grace upon me, for myself but also for others.” That’s how it works. God gives us His grace so that we can spread it to others, especially those who don’t know Him. We can get grace to them when He can’t because we are the ones they come in contact with. There is a caveat, though. Grace is unmerited favor. In other words, we are tasked to give it to people who don’t deserve it. They are not worthy, have not earned it. None the less, God has apportioned grace for them.

Salvation is a gift from God, granted by God’s grace. Our gift to God is when we spread His grace, unmerited favor, to others. Be grace-full today. Find a way to show God’s favor to someone else.

Grace

John 1: 16

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

Grace – it is a word we little understand. Of divine grace Wikipedia writes, “Divine grace is a theological term present in many religions. It has been defined as the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation; and as an individual virtue or excellence of divine origin.” The dictionary reads, “simple elegance or refinement of movement, courteous goodwill.” What is clear from these sources is that the word grace is used in several ways.

I find myself particularly drawn to the definition of graceful movements. One would normally distinguish that definition from our use, but I find something remarkably attractive about it. Simple elegance in movement might be transposed into simple elegance in word and deed. Perhaps the refinement in movement becomes refined speech and action.

Increasingly I am learning that grace is not what we have thought and in fact, my newest revelation on grace is that God’s grace is for me but the grace he deposits within me, He deposits in me for others. I am more the bank than the beneficiary. Today’s verse shines light on this thought. He has accepted us and forgiven us, time upon time. It is because of His grace that we do not have to carry the burden of our mistakes and sins. For every wound we have inflicted upon ourselves through wrong thoughts, actions and words, He has slathered us with grace upon grace. We have received, and continue to receive, His fullness through and by His grace.

His grace strengthens us so that we endure the challenges gracefully. His grace softens our rough edges so that we may convey His “courteous goodwill” to others. Our movements become elegant when we move in His grace. Our words take on the flowing refinement of His love. One can easily picture the graceful movements of a ballet dancer. They can make the same movement as someone else, but the elegance of their movement becomes art and it blesses the soul. So, too, are our words, actions and thought when we baptize them in grace.

Perhaps you can ponder the word grace today and find richness and nuance that may have eluded you previously. Be blessed.